20 March 2023
London Irish Assistant Coach Declan Danaher has outlined the positives to gain for his team following a Premiership Rugby Cup final loss at the hands of Exeter Chiefs.
Danaher has stated that the reverse at the Gtech Community Stadium will “be the making” of the youthful elements of the Exiles squad having suffered consecutive extra-time losses in the tournament.
A tightly-contested affair in west London was brought into added time with a converted Josh Iosefa-Scott try, Jacob Atkins’ second penalty of the day 88 minutes into the game being ultimately undone then by Aidon Davis’ score.
Despite the agonising method of defeat, the Assistant Coach commended the squad effort that led to qualifying for successive final berths.
“It’s tough, it does feel like déjà vu going into extra-time, and situations like that generate a lot of emotion,” Danaher confessed.
“I’m massively proud of the boys, there’s 48 guys that have been involved in the competition and it’s testament to all of them that we got here today.
“My feeling now, and what it will be for the next few days, is that we would rather be involved in these matches rather than not.
“For players, coaches and staff it’s all part of our journey at the moment at London Irish, and it doesn’t feel like it now, but we will be better for it some point in the future.”
It was a valiant effort from Irish on the day, the anticipated physical battle required to match Exeter was seen in abundance throughout both in the set-piece and in contact.
Exeter’s experience utilised in their finishers as the game went on was cited as a contributing factor to Rob Baxter’s men picking their third cup win in the first tier.
Ultimately, the London Irish stalwart credited the fight shown from Chiefs on their travels, declaring it a “hell of a win.”
“It felt like our luck had been used up in the previous rounds maybe, it wasn’t going to be the fairytale we had against Saints and picking up the bonus point against Bath.
“But both teams went at it and really pushed each other, both sets of forwards were brilliant – it was always going to be a tight, cagey affair.
“They could call on players who have done it on the big stage, the likes of Joe Simmonds off the bench, a European Cup winner, and what he did superbly was apply the pressure back onto us and didn’t let that pressure come off.
“It felt like the door was getting firmly slammed in our face, and that’s credit to Exeter as a team and massive congratulations to them – it’s a hell of a win.”
With three current Senior Academy players and seven graduates utilised in the matchday 23, Irish projected a youthful, homegrown makeup in their approach to Sunday’s contest.
The heartbreak of being unable to lift the cup will ultimately serve those youngsters well in their nascent careers in the coming months and years.
Danaher expounded: “For some of these young players, it will be the making of them but as I say, it probably won’t feel like that at the moment.
“It will toughen them, it will harden them, and it will probably make them more clinical when they get these opportunities.
“It is a short career, it can change overnight and you have to be pretty ruthless with these opportunities when they come around.”
As ever with the Exiles, the determination will not waver in the face of another challenge this weekend when Northampton Saints arrive in the capital for the annual St. Patrick’s Party fixture.
The big games keep rolling for the Club, and Danaher broadcasted a defiant outlook with three contests left in the schedule for London Irish’s 2022/23 season.
“We’ve already spoken about it, we have two choices ahead of next week and we’ll choose the right one.
“We have an opportunity in our hands next week to beat Northampton Saints and put ourselves in a better place in terms of league positioning to compete further this season.
“That’s massive whether you’re in the team or not, because if you’re not, you have to prepare the lads and if you are then you have that responsibility to pull that jersey on.
“Especially with it being at home, the St. Patrick’s Party fixture, and in front of a massive crowd.
“We can sit and mope, but I know that we won’t, we’re moving onto Saints to prepare the lads to win the game.”